It feels odd these days to flip through the mental sub-genre Rolodex when listening to new music, only to land squarely on plain old "rock n’ roll." But New Jersey power-trio Screaming Females are most notable for the skill of their pixie frontwoman/guitar deity Marissa Paternoster and not some new wrinkle of mashed-up influences. They just rock, constantly, and in an admirably no-nonsense fashion. They’ve released three albums culminating in last year’s Power Move, which opened the door to gigs with rock Olympians like Dinosaur Jr. Singles, a compilation EP gathering out-of-print 7" material, is the shorter, sweeter entry point. There are plenty of earworms dug into Singles’ fuzz, predominantly heavy, nimbly shifting riffs rather than big, vocal pop moments, but there are a few of those too. Paternoster’s voice is often described as towering, and it certainly can be, but in less full-throttle moments she sounds oddly elfin. An element of that smallness remains even at the quavering heights, giving her a Grace Slick-in-middle-school effect (as opposed to a natural blues powerhouse).
The six songs on Singles race by, with more uniform tone and fewer developmental lurches than usual for this sort of compilation. Despite a few knotty stops and starts, opener "Arm Over Arm" has an easy charm. Sleater-Kinney comparisons were probably inevitable, but it’s a pleasing foil to easy gender shorthand that the most similar aspect is Jarrett Dougherty’s pounding Janet Weiss drum fills. Those coming to Screaming Females just desperate for a dab of grrrl power will be thrilled by the first seconds of the closing "I Do," which follow yet another great guitar hook with the awesome declaration, "I dig on calculus!" While Paternoster easily occupies the center of Neil Young’s epic "Cortez the Killer," "No Being Disgusting" sees her fall victim to the universal shredder’s malady of being a tad masturbatory in her solos. The best track is the modestly titled "Pretty OK," in which the riffs come in moderation, and empty space benefits a strong vocal melody. Step one: get over treating superlative women guitarists as a novelty. Step two: gently nudge all the wankers back in line.